Julian Westwood – Renaissance Man

For those of us who have never found themselves behind the wheel of a racing car, there is one thing that is obvious to us about people who go racing – they are mad. They must be, to repeatedly put themselves through the trauma of having to find the budget, find the seat and then finally go racing; a pastime, incidentally, that is potentially lethal.

A typical racing driver’s career involves many stops and starts and, sadly, the stops generally occur regardless of talent. Happily for us pedestrians, however, some racers’ doggedness means that we still get the opportunity to see that talent on display at race meetings, when lesser mortals would have taken up gardening at weekends instead.

dailysportscar.comJulian Westwood began his racing career on the bottom rung of the ‘F1, Here We Come’ ladder at the age of 14, in karting, before progressing to single seaters in 1986. Two years of Formula Ford 1600 racing preceded a works Van Diemen drive in FF2000, which netted him a runner-up slot in the 1988 championship. With graduation to F3 in 1989, everything looked to be on track, particularly when his debut race in the category saw a points finish. Driving initially with Racefax (alongside Alain Menu) and then Swallow, the next logical move at the time was F3000.

F3000 at the start of the ‘90s, on paper, was potentially massive. The 1991 FIA F3000 Championship was oversubscribed and boasted such names as Irvine, Frentzen, van de Poele, Gounon, McNish, Wendlinger, Morbidelli (and some bloke called Damon Hill). This oversubscription led to the creation of the British F3000 Championship and Westwood signed up to drive with CaneCordy Motorsport. The team was created by ex-Williams GP personnel and the car was a Lola T90-50 Cosworth. Westwood finished third in the 10-race championship (a year that was overshadowed by the death of Paul Warwick at Oulton Park) and was the top British driver. Unfortunately for him, he could not capitalise on this success, as the budgets required to move into the International series were prohibitive: he would have to look elsewhere for his racing.

A year of globe-trotting followed, with drives in New Zealand (second in the Formula Atlantic Championship) and also British and Japanese F3s, again with a works drive for Van Diemen.

The British motor racing scene was now becoming dominated by the BTCC (in fact, Westwood’s F3000 debut at Oulton Park in 1991 was on the same day that the 2 litre touring car category debuted at the same track), and the young driver’s racing would be touring car-related for the next few years.

Starting with a drive in the 1994 TOCA Shoot Out, Westwood drove in BTCC support races in Ventos and Renault Spiders (second in the championship to Jason Plato), before winning the 1997 Vectra championship. A season of European Renault Spiders in 1998 (second, including a win at Monaco, and some dramas at Le Mans) was followed in 1999 by a one-off appearance in the British GT Championship F1-support race, sharing a Porsche GT2 with Gary Ayles. The same year also saw two outings in British F3 with Team Parker.

At this point, the racing was getting ever rarer for Westwood, and in 2000 he didn’t have a single drive. “I absolutely love driving,” he explains, “but after winning the Vectra championship in 1997 I was really pissed off at not getting a touring car drive and I decided not to waste any more money chasing drives.”

dailysportscar.comHowever, a chance encounter at the 2001 Autosport International show in Birmingham saw him racing once again. “I bumped into the boss of High Class Racing and he invited me to drive a Renault in the Danish Touring Car Championship. That almost led to a works drive with Peugeot, but unfortunately that didn’t come off.”

Another year of inactivity was followed by a disappointing year in the SEAT Cupra Championship (left), courtesy of a nightmare car, and again the racing stalled.

dailysportscar.comIn 2004, however, Westwood renewed his acquaintance with Team Parker and he took part in the November night race at Donington Park. That was very much a toe-in-the-water exercise, but a late deal in early 2005 (that involves him engineering the Team Parker cars, and shifting tyres, in return for a drive) saw him racing a Porsche 996 with Martin Rich in the GT3 Class of the British GT Championship.

As ever, the GT3 class has seen some excellent racing this season and Westwood has been in the thick of it.

At the opening round at Donington Park he was ahead of some of the GT2 cars...

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... while another highlight was a scintillating drive in the GT3 stand-alone race at Croft, where he scythed his way from the back of the pack to the front in driving rain (below); but whenever he races, the commitment is never less than full and this weekend at Silverstone should see further proof of that.

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But although he enjoys his racing, he is also very serious about it. Having to earn a living away from the track (he is co-owner of a health and fitness studio in Warwick, and also does development driving for various manufacturers) means that he isn’t earning money while at the track. He therefore did not lightly enter into the drive with Team Parker. Instead, he saw an opportunity to get back into racing, with a professional and ambitious team, and hopes that this will open more doors in the future.

2005 has seen two highly talented single-seater drivers from the last decade (Elton Julian being the other) fight their way back into sportscar and GT racing. The category would be wise to do all it can to hold on to that talent.
Mark Howson

 

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